Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My $40 Christmas

Christmas 2009 was an especially lean season for us, in the financial sense. And not terribly fattening in the physical sense either, since we had the stomach flu.

Because of the lean funds, though, and because I wanted to, I made most of our Christmas presents. I was really proud of how almost everything turned out. I wish I had gotten pictures of them all.

But I thought I'd share what I made:

For the grandparents, photo rubik's cubes and marble magnets made from the kids art (I just cut circles for the backs of the marbles, and then let them draw tiny pictures on them). Both turned out really cute, but didn't get photographed. I got the cubes and the marbles for the magnets at the dollar store, printed my own photos for the cubes, and ordered 100 magnets for the back of the marbles from ebay, for about $4.60. Total was $7.60, which I'll round up to $8.00

For my side of the family the adults drew names and have a suggestion that we spend $15 on each other. (Which, in my opinion, is a LOT). For one sister,

I drew and framed a picture of her dog

made her sesame street characters out of yarn pom-poms

I think Oscar is my favorite.

and gave her a cute vintage mug and a large jar of homemade instant chai mix.

For the other, I painted a stencil portrait of my brother and his wife. It was my first time painting, and I wasn't very happy with my skills, so Chester fixed it for me, and it looks much better. (I got the canvas and paints on amazing sales at Michaels, so the painting cost under $5).

She also got a jar of chai mix, and a half-dozen marble magnets, printed with star-trek icons.

Total cost for my side was about $8. I felt guilty spending so little, especially when my sister spent $30 on me. I'm not sure how to deal with that. I stopped feeling guilty when I realized that the sister who spent $30 on me makes about double what I do, and supports one, not seven, person on that wage. Still, I hope they didn't find my gifts cheap. I worked pretty hard on them. Not everyone considers time expensive.

Chester's side drew names too, and the kids were included in that gift draw -- so it was seven gifts total. On that side, it's okay (even cool) to give gifts that you got an a garage sale or thrift store, and the limit is $5. Most of what I gave were indeed garage sale finds from last summer: A cereal dispenser, filled with cereal from food net was $5, a gumball machine, filled with cereal from food net, was $2.50. A brand new swiffer mop was from food net (yeah, they give away amazing stuff that doesn't sell), a set of walkie-talkies that had been given to us a few years ago, a set of doll paraphernalia from garage sales totalling about $3, a set of exacto knives in various shapes, that we bought from a going-out-of-business sale for $3, and a home-made apron (which was a lot of work and turned out really cute, and I wish I'd gotten a picture of) that the recipient had requested. And family gifts of home-made Keva blocks (Chester cut them from some maple wood flooring pieces that were too short to be used well, and they turned out really neat), and a game of Bongo from a garage sale for $2. Total $20.50.

We gave each of the kids gifts that we'd gotten from garage sales, or that were re-gifts. Bennet got some books of paper airplanes to make (free), Matt got a set of car props (buildings and roads and such for cars to drive on, free) Josephine got a set of wooden dolls with "clothes" to dress them ($1 at a garage sale), and Lisel got a tea set in a wicker basket (free).

In the kids stockings were the "useful" gifts - tights and belts, and a pair of homemade mittens. As well as apples and oranges that had been given to us. The total there was under $2.

I used swagbucks to get Chester a book that he requested. It was $20 on Amazon, so I also ordered a book for homeschooling next year to bring the total over $25 and take advantage of the free shipping.

At church, we gave away about 40 jars of home-made jam and jellies. Those cost about $.65 each to make (most of which is the jar. Not many people return them when they're finished).

So, about $39 on gifts and $26 on jams and jellies. Chester got me a gift too (a nice vegetable peeler). I haven't looked to see what he spent. This post is about what I spent. I really was hoping to spend under $50 total, but when I consider what I spent on jelly, I'm pretty happy with under seventy.

I felt like it was a really special Christmas to give people things that I had put a lot of heart and effort into, and I was pleased to also not go broke in the process. Handmade is really great! (So are garage sales!)


  1. Edited to include the fabulous tights and belts from the thrift store, which we used as stocking stuffers (they're really popular!)

  2. Sounds like a great Christmas, fabulous work!

  3. Your Christmas gifts were amazingly creative. I was particularly interested in the stencil portrait. Do you mind me asking how you did that? I would like to try my hand at it. I will have to get creative this year myself. This year we have joined the rest of the country in our economic status. I remember a year when my kids were young and we made very little money that I made all the gifts. I did this right before we moved at Thanksgiving so that I would have time to get them completed. I ran out of moving boxes and began packing in trash bags. This is NOT a good idea. I put all the Christmas gifts in a trash bag. Well, one day, I looked out the window and realized that my husband was burning the trash (lived on a farm)and I had a really sick feeling. I ran out to find that all my Christmas gifts were up in flame. We had to really laugh at that though I wanted to cry. It is a memory of a very happy time in my life and I will never forget how God provided Christmas for us that year. Anyway, I am an artist and I need to use my talent this year for Christmas presents. I love the stencil portrait. It is something I might could complete on time. My email is